Julie Tulbert, Policy Intern and William & Mary Law School Student
Earlier this month, Governor Pat McCrory signed into law an expansion of the waiting period for abortion, signaling his continued inability to both keep his promise and to listen to the people of North Carolina. McCrory took office in 2013 because of his perceived ability to compromise with Democrats on important issues, including not expanding restrictions on abortion. McCrory quickly proved his untrustworthiness with the signing of the Motorcycle Vagina Bill. House Bill 465 serves as another step by McCrory and the Republicans in the General Assembly to take us, not back in time, but to a new time of government-controlled abortion access.
The Governor and the Republicans refused to listen to any reasonable voices before the ratification of this bill. After the introduction of the bill on April 1st, we tried to show that the bill had no basis in medical science through the expert opinions of local OB/GYNs and other medical professionals. The Governor and the legislators had these experts available for information, but the politicians decided once again that they knew more about healthcare than the professionals.
Republicans in the General Assembly framed the debate as protecting the rights of women through allowing women to take more time for consideration before having the abortion. A forced, mandatory waiting period protects only the rights of the government to control women further in our own personal decisions. This is a quintessential example of too much government interference the Republicans should be against. But they aren’t. Behind these types of laws, stands the idea that women are not able to think for themselves – that the government must set aside this time period for women to be forced to contemplate their basic right of bodily integrity.
Another provision in the law contains an even worse violation of the right to privacy. Physicians must submit information to the Department of Health and Human Services if they perform abortions after 16 weeks. This information includes an ultrasound image of the fetus. This part of the law suggests a new wave of government oversight taken to the extreme. This requirement operates as a way to discourage doctors from performing abortions by creating more hurdles, but it also puts doctors and women on notice that the 20-week abortion ban stands in North Carolina. The law requires that if a doctor performs an abortion after the 20th week, they must also submit what was the emergency that required the abortion.
While this provision is egregious on its own, it will also function as a precedent for further laws surveilling the choices of women and their doctors in North Carolina. Politicians will second-guess the medical opinion of doctors as to the age of the fetus between the 16th and 20th weeks and what is an “actual” medical emergency after the 20th week. We may see that what classifies as an emergency will be restricted further and further as more of this type of information comes in. More women in North Carolina may be subjected to civil or criminal penalties for seeking post-20 week abortions not deemed an “emergency.”
The Governor has allowed this potential future for North Carolina. Beyond the medical opinion of doctors, the Governor ignored the voice of his own citizens – we collected over 16,000 petition signatures from North Carolinians urging him to veto the bill. He did not. He refused to even meet with us when we delivered the petitions. Governor McCrory well deserves the grades we gave him on our Majority Report Card – all Fs. He failed the women of North Carolina by denying their basic rights and allowing a dangerous bill to become law without listening to reason. We can no longer have faith in the Governor to keep his promises when he has violated our trust too many times. We must also let the Governor and the Legislature know that these significant restrictions on our rights will not be tolerated.